Tagged ‘Identity‘

The Wilderness of Testing Part Two

Last month I shared some of the challenges I faced over the past year. If you missed that blog, you can read it here: The Wilderness of Testing. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually, I was greatly challenged. I received many comments about my transparency regarding the sexual temptation I endured. However, there may have been a misperception this was the primary way God tested me. This is not the case. I was tested in many areas; discouragement, physical and mental exhaustion, and financial stress were significant aspects throughout this season. The sexual temptation was a small part of a larger protracted trial. I call this season of trial, “The Wilderness of Testing.” It is a season specifically designed by God to test us, to see what we have learned.

In the previous blog, I shared the first interaction between Satan and Jesus when Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tested. As I look further into this passage, there is more to discover in regards to the challenges we face. So this month let’s look at the second temptation Satan presented to Jesus and see how it relates to you and me.

Here’s the passage for this month:

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”


Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:5-7, ESV)

The Enemy Attacks

Once again, the enemy begins his attack by questioning Jesus’ identity. He says, “If you are the Son of God….” He used this statement in the first temptation. It is significant that he uses this line again. Why? Our enemy wants to destroy our relationship with God. If our enemy can get us to question our identity as sons and daughters of God, then we are in grave danger. Carefully guard your identity.

From the pinnacle of the temple, he tells Jesus to throw himself down. After all, the Scriptures say God will rescue you. Why not make him prove it. You’re his son, right?

Also notice how Satan uses Scripture as part of his attack. He quotes Psalm 91:11-12. Satan loves to quote Scripture on the way to destroying you and I. It should alarm us that our enemy knows Scripture. Do we know it as well as he does?

Jesus Responds

Gratefully, once again Jesus responds with Scripture. “Again it is written ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Now if you are like me, I’ve read this passage before and glossed right over what Jesus just said. This time, as I looked into this, I wondered what it meant to put God to the test. What was Jesus saying?

To understand what Jesus says, we need to look at the passage he references. Jesus refers to a passage where Moses addresses the Israelite nation. In this passage Moses says, “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah” (Deuteronomy 6:16, ESV).

We’re getting closer. Now we need to find out what happened at Massah. The event is described in Exodus 17. Here is what it says:

All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”


And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?”
But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”


So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.”


And the LORD said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.”


And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” (Exodus 17:1-7, ESV)


The Hebrew word for “tested” in this passage expresses the idea of putting God to the test, to make him prove himself. It is connected with the idea of doubting God. It is a test born out of doubt instead of faith.

The Israelites were thirsty by design. God led them to that place. In their discomfort, they complained to one another. They complained to Moses. It seems they speak to everyone but God. They tested the Lord by saying in effect, “Is the Lord among us or not? Then he should prove it.”

God tests us to see where we are in relationship with him, but it is not okay for you and me to test God to prove where he is in relationship with us. He never changes. His love is a constant burning flame. It is our love for him that flickers. The irony is we tend to test God when he is testing us! He allows trials in our lives to see what we have learned in our relationship with him, but instead of trusting him, we tend to test him. We doubt his love and care. Are you here? Do you love me? Are you loving or not?

Don’t do it. Do not test the Lord. Instead of testing him, trust him. Even when it does not make sense. Choose to love God rather than trying to understand him. This is perhaps the greatest lesson I learned over the past year. It is better to love God than to try and understand him. He is completely in control.

Next month we’ll look at the final temptation the enemy throws at Jesus. For now, let’s review the lessons from this section.

  1. Satan will question your identity as a son or daughter of God. It is the primary way he tries to defeat us. If he can get us to question our identity as God’s children, then we are in deep trouble.
  1. The enemy uses Scripture against us. It is interesting that our enemy knows Scripture. Unfortunately, he twists it to support his position. Some people do the same today. Do you know the Scriptures as well as your enemy? It is critical to view any Scripture in the broader context of the entire Bible.
  1. Don’t put God to the test. It is okay to question God, but it is not okay to doubt his love for you. Never doubt his love. He already proved his love for you when he gave his Son to die in your place. Choose to trust God rather than trying to understand him.

Is God actually trustworthy? Ultimately, this is the question at the heart of this temptation. May we pass the test! May we rise up and say, “I will trust God even when it does not make sense.”

I always enjoy reading your comments. Feel free to post your thoughts below.


Olympic Moments

It was a stunning moment in the U.S. Olympic trials on June 23, 2016. The Men’s 10 meter platform synchronized diving trial was dominated by Olympic Gold medalist David Boudia and his young, relatively inexperienced teammate Steele Johnson. Their six dives electrified the audience. They scored higher than previous Olympic Gold medal teams, setting up an expectation for a possible medal in this year’s Olympics in Rio. After completing their final dive, Steele Johnson swam to the side of the pool and wept with the realization that he had made the Olympic team. His family wept. Many were deeply moved by the moment.

Finally, the NBC commentator interviewed the diving duo. Turning to Johnson, she said, “Steele Johnson, you are going to the Olympics. We see the emotion. Describe what’s going through your mind.”

Johnson shook his head in disbelief. “I’ve been working for this dream for a long time,” he said, “and honestly I never thought the day would come. And I feel like I just blinked and now I’m on the 2016 Olympic Team. But it’s cool because, this is exciting, this is fun, but this is not where my identity is going to be for the rest of my life. Yeah, I’m Steele Johnson the Olympian, but at the same time I’m here to love and serve Christ. My identity is rooted in Christ and not in the flips we’re doing.”

This was the moment. I sat stunned on my couch staring at the screen. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard.

Now please hear me on this. I don’t think it is necessary to give a shout out to Jesus when you win. I believe you can glorify God just by doing something well. It was a bonus that Johnson said what he did. What I loved was that he had figured out where his identity lies. Have you?

Where is your identity? Think about this for a moment. Is your identity based on your job? Is it based on your accomplishments? Is it in being a mother or father? Is it in being a husband or a wife? Is it in being young and healthy? Is it based on being an athlete? Where do you find your identity?

If you are a follower of Jesus, your identity is that of a son of God. You have been adopted into the family of God. As such, you are a son or daughter of God. This is who you are. You have all the rights and privileges of being a child of the most powerful, loving father ever. Paul wrote about our identity as children of God in his letter to the church in Galatia. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Galatians 4:4-7, ESV).

That is an exciting truth! In fact, it is so exciting that Satan will try to get you to question your identity at every turn. He even tried to get Jesus to question his identity as a son of God. Can you imagine?

Jesus had just been baptized by John. “When Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16-17, ESV).

God made his announcement to the world. “This is my Son!” What happened next? Jesus fasted for 40 days. Then the enemy came to him to tempt him. Notice how the enemy begins. The very first thing Satan does is to try to get Jesus to question his identity. He says, “If you are the Son of God…” (Matthew 4:3, ESV). It is remarkable. God had just said, “This is my Son,” and yet the first words out of Satan’s mouth were, “If you are the Son of God….” If our enemy would attack Jesus in this way, don’t you think it is possible that he will attack you and me in the same way? And why would he choose to attack this aspect of our lives?

Our identity as sons of God is crucial because all the rights and privileges of a son are granted to us by God. We are no longer in bondage to the enemy. We are not slaves. We are children of God. Satan has no authority over us. We have been set free! When you understand that you are a son of God, then the ups and downs in life have little significance. It truly matters not if you win or lose, you are a son of God.

It may surprise you to know that my identity is not in being an itinerant minister or a conference speaker or an author. My identity is not in my songwriting or singing. My identity is solely as a son of God. Period. The beautiful thing is that when my identity is rooted in Christ alone, no one and nothing can take it away. I am his and he is mine. Nothing can change that. The world may change. My position may change. I may grow old and feeble. But my identity stays the same.

When the Olympics begin in the coming days, we will gather with friends to watch and cheer on our home town heroes. Some will receive medals for their achievements. Others will receive hardly a mention, only to fade into obscurity in coming days. But for those who understand where their identity lies, the true reward will always be held closely. “I am a son of God.”

That, my friends, is an Olympic moment.

This article was originally published in the August 2016 Newsletter.